Drumming the beat of life

It’s more than just the beat of the drums. It’s the love of Matthew Decker’s life, and it becomes evident almost as soon as he picks up the sticks.

A deep, primal rhythm courses from his hands to his feet and into the heart of the drum set.

Decker’s interest in drums wasn’t a passing fancy. He was hooked at an early age, and with strong, positive influences, his career is exploding.

“I started playing in middle school and came up through the music at Arndt Middle School and St. Stephens High School, where Kevin Howard planted the seed,” Decker said. “Then, I came up through the Lenoir-Rhyne percussion program. Rick Cline was a big inspiration to a lot of what I’m doing.”

Decker continues to play in the Pan Jive Steel Drum Band, which Cline formed more than 10 years ago. Pan Jive is made up of professional musicians and percussion teachers who take their steel drums to schools through the county, state and beyond.

Pan Jive puts a tremendous emphasis on education. So does Decker.

“As far as teaching, I discovered that what I had, I wanted to share,” he said.

So, in 2003, Decker moved to New York to further his skills and training. He studied at and graduated from the Audio Recording Technology Institute of Islandia.

In addition to daily classes, Decker taught percussion to several students during the week. Three days a week, two hours each way, he rode the train from Long Island into the center of the Big Apple for a non-paying internship at an acclaimed multi-million dollar studio owned by Jonathan Mover, a drummer and producer.
Money was scarce, but Decker was resourceful and managed to pay the “sky high” rent. He learned, too, that time was scarce, and in addition to being multi-talented, he learned to multi-task.

Sandwiched between Decker’s many practice sessions were music projects and, of course, his studies.
“Audio Recording Technology Institute offers a focused program jammed in an eight-month period,” Decker said.

Classes were 12 hours a day, followed by recording sessions at night. Decker thrived.

“You absorbed it, you did it — the curriculum was based on hands-on classes,” he said. “There were 10 people in a class, and we split in half, and then rotated — we did all the jobs and covered all aspects of recording. We focused on using pro tools, a computer software editing program.”

Armed with a degree in sound engineering and years of practice, practice and more practice, Decker began to emerge as a diverse player and instructor.

The driving force of Decker’s life and career is his dedication and passionate love for his profession. And, then, he met Dom Famularo and received instruction from the master.

“He is one of the drumming world’s most accomplished members, and he played a huge role in the development of my career and my drumming skills,” Decker said. “He unlocked a lot of potential I didn’t know I had.”

Famularo instilled drumming technique in Decker and also guided him through the business side of the industry.

Decker returned to Hickory, and as the saying goes, he “took the bull by the horns” and formed his own business — Mattador Productions and Drum Academy.

“The name reflects the nature of what I do,” he said with a grin.

Mattador Drum Academy provides affordable and private percussion lessons for all levels of experience and all ages.

“Mattador Productions is a Mac powered pro tools studio for creating audio and video productions,” Decker said.

From his teachers and mentors, Decker learned one of the most important lessons — the importance of being a positive influence in the development of young musicians.

“There’s a lot associated with the music business — there’s good and there’s bad,” Decker said. “It’s important to help them understand that there is a dark side.”

Decker said it’s crucial to be versatile as a drummer because there are so many outlets for percussionists.
“I play all types —  djembe, steel drums, timbales and marimbas — primarily drum set, though,” Decker said.

“That’s how I was taught.”

So now Decker provides percussion instruction to students of all ages and levels.  This includes drum-set, classical percussion, marching percussion and hand drumming.

“I’m excited about what we’re doing in the studio,” he said. “Luc Valcourt and I offer a one-week workshop. For four days, a different instrument is played and recorded, and then the last day of the workshop, it’s all combined into one session.

The workshops are held at the state of the art facility in Lenoir, Epiphonic Studios.

Decker also teaches the drum line of Hickory High School’s Marching Band.

“That’s a lot of fun,” he said. “Kids that age have such an explosion of power — I see great results.”
Decker plays in several bands in the area.

“Whoever needs me,” he said with a grin.

Decker played percussion in the recent production of “The Full Monty” at Hickory Community Theatre. He’s scheduled to play for the opening musical of the new season in “9 to 5”
“I’m involved with Hickory Music Factory, which is beginning to pick up,” he added. “I’ll be part of that.”

When does he sleep?

“Not often,” he said. “When I can.”

Decker is also involved in competition mountain biking.

“Outdoorsy stuff,” he quipped.
But for this driven 28-year-old, it’s music first and always.

More information:
What: Mattador Productions and Drum
Academy. Drum lessons offered six days a week, with one-hour and one-half-hour sessions.
Where: 450 Fifth St. S.W., Hickory.
Call: 828-310-1661, visit www.facebook.com/mattdeckerdrums and www.facebook.com/Mattador DrumAcademy.